While calls of hypocrisy are very common in almost any form of debate, they’ve become annoyingly widespread in hockey discussion lately. The most obvious example is that hockey fans penalize Mario Lemieux for employing Matt Cooke, even when he makes a mostly valid point about the need for teams to be culpable in dirty hit situations.
The hockey media loves Bruce Boudreau for his candidness (and his far-from-time-sensitive love of ice cream, among other things), but I must disagree with the spirit of his argument against Montreal Canadiens fans who are set to protest the Zdeno Chara non-suspension outside the Bell Centre during tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals.
It’s not that he’s wrong when he remarked that those Montreal-based protesters wouldn’t be up in arms if the shoe was on the other foot. That much is obvious, but would you think less of … say, a PETA protester just because they ignore problems faced by environmentalists?
(Granted, many PETA members are tangentially likely to be environmentalists, but that was just a random, non-offensive parallel. Let’s just move on.)
Anyway, before we go any further, let’s take a look at an excerpt of what Boudreau said to those protesters.
“You don’t like it, don’t come to the games,” Boudreau told the assembled media at the Capitals’ pre-game skate on Tuesday morning.
The protest began on Mar. 9 when Canadiens fans – irate at the lack of a suspension for Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara after he drove forward Max Pacioretty’s head into a stanchion – launched a Facebook campaign to gather outside the arena. The online petition had over 1,500 signatures as of Tuesday morning.
Boudreau – who has demonstrated that he has no fear on speaking his mind – also said that if situations were reversed, that the incident would have already been forgotten.
“Listen, I don’t want to get into any controversy,” he said. “But if that was Hal Gill that hit David Krejci, I don’t think there’d be a protest going on here tonight.”
Again, it’s not like Boudreau is wrong about the situation out of context, but fans have a right to protest anything they want. Hockey fans pay exorbitant prices to attend games – especially in passionate markets such as Montreal – so casually pointing out that they wouldn’t be so angry if the victim was on the other team misses the point.
That being said, I want to reiterate how refreshing it is to observe a coach who is as candid and well-spoken as bellicose Bruce Boudreau. Agree or disagree, at least the man transcends bland PR speak.
What really might be interesting, though, is to see how many protesters show up. If you’ve ever followed Facebook invitations, you know that there often is a big difference between someone saying they’ll show up to an event or party online and them actually appearing. The sparse attendance for last year’s Fire Glen Sather rally is a great hockey example of that, although this time around, it’s hyper-loyal Canadiens fans we’re talking about.
Canadiens fans already built a love-hate relationship with Boudreau and the Capitals during last year’s compelling seven-game series, but this added wrinkle could be interesting. If anyone shows up to the protest, that is.